1st major Trump-era abortion battle could go to High Court

The case of a pregnant migrant teen held in Texas and blocked by the Trump administration from obtaining an abortion may be heading toward a point of no return.

When the legal drama began last month, she was about 11 weeks pregnant. She is now at about 16 weeks, and her lawyers say her options for an abortion in Texas are dwindling. At the same time, the chances of a showdown among federal judges are increasing.

The dispute, now at a Washington-based U.S. appeals court and perhaps destined for the U.S. Supreme Court, constitutes the first major abortion battle of the Trump administration.

It reinforces President Donald Trump’s recent moves to curtail reproductive rights and take up religiously tinged conservative causes. It also recalls decades-old disputes over whether a husband, parent or anyone else can essentially veto a woman’s choice to end an unwanted pregnancy.

In the 1973 milestone case of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court declared that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. The justices have affirmed that right over the years, ruling that government may not unduly burden women seeking to exercise their rights. The cases have bitterly divided the nine justices and stirred passions across the country.

That fervor is building again in the case of Garza v. Hargan, involving a 17-year-old woman known in court papers as Jane Doe or J.D. and presenting the first clash in the Trump era between a woman’s personal liberty and government’s ability to determine when she has an abortion.

J.D. fled her home country in Central America, saying she faced horrible family abuse. After she crossed the border into Texas, she landed in a government-funded shelter for children who have entered the country illegally. When she learned she was pregnant, a guardian was appointed. J.D. then obtained a state court hearing, during which a judge found that she was mature enough to decide whether she wanted to end her pregnancy. J.D. opted for an abortion.

The Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing the shelter, objected. HHS officials contended it would be in J.D.’s best interest to carry the pregnancy to term. It has blocked her from obtaining the abortion, saying it does not want to “facilitate” the procedure.

“The government may legitimately express a preference for childbirth over abortion, even if such a preference may have practical effects or limits on a woman’s exercise of her right to abortion,” Justice Department lawyers said in a filing on Monday. 

They stressed that Doe arrived in the United States illegally and created her current dilemma. They make clear the administration’s aversion to abortion rights — a stance that could shape future cases — by stating that the government should not be forced to be “complicit in Ms. Doe’s abortion.”

DOJ lawyer Catherine Dorsey, who represented the government before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week, said J.D. could simply go back to her home country. J.D.’s lawyers at the ACLU counter that she fears returning home and emphasize the fundamental constitutional right at stake.

ACLU lawyer Brigitte Amiri told the DC Circuit that time was slipping away, given that Texas prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks. She said it can be difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion there even earlier in the second trimester.

Amiri said J.D.’s guardian, shelter personnel and health clinic workers stand ready to help J.D. Private funds have been collected to pay for the procedure. “All (HHS) must do is step aside and stop blocking the door,” Amiri wrote in a filing.

A panel of the DC Circuit ruled by a two to one vote last Friday that J.D. may obtain an abortion but must first try to obtain a government-approved sponsor to take her into custody here in the US. The panel majority, Appeals Court Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Karen LeCraft Henderson, said if J.D. still has not found a sponsor by October 31, she may then return to courts to try to win the right to abortion on her own.

Judge Patricia Millett dissented. She said forcing J.D. to continue her pregnancy in the hope of finding a sponsor, which she failed to find over the past six weeks, “sacrifices J.D.’s constitutional liberty, autonomy, and personal dignity for no justifiable governmental purpose.”

Invoking Millett’s dissent, J.D.’s lawyers have asked the full DC Circuit to take up the case, reverse the panel, and allow J.D. to undergo an abortion as soon as possible.

Abortion cases often break along liberal-conservative lines, and the full DC Circuit may be more sympathetic to such arguments than the panel majority. Kavanaugh and Henderson are Republican appointees; Millett is a Democratic appointee. On the full court, there is a strong majority of Democratic judges.

In any event, the DC Circuit may not be the last word. The case could be appealed to the Supreme Court, where abortion decisions can come down to a single vote — typically Justice Anthony Kennedy’s — and predictions are risky.

What is clear, however, is the Trump administration position against the abortion rights of a teenager who came here illegally. As Judge Millett noted, the facts of this case are not all that rare and reverberations could be significant.

She wrote, “(U)nfortunately, other women and girls desperate to escape abuse, sexual trafficking, and forced prostitution undoubtedly will also find themselves on our shores and pregnant.”

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Miami Beach commissioner to resign, enter plea in campaign finance scandal

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco is set to step down from his position on the city’s commission on Tuesday and enter a plea to a criminal charge related to a campaign finance scandal, Local 10 News has confirmed. 

Grieco will enter a plea in connection to one misdemeanor count of accepting a political donation through a straw donor, which is in violation of state campaign finance law.

He is expected go to Miami-Dade criminal court after he turns in his resignation, the Miami Herald repots.  

Grieco may be banned from running for office for one year, and will be asked to pay the costs associated with the state attorney’s public corruption investigation, the Miami Herald said. 

The commissioner was once an assistant attorney and was investigated by the same office he once worked for. 

 

 

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Fort Lauderdale family searches for missing dog

To Junior Morgan his Pekingese-shih tzu mix named Rambo is part of the family.

So when Rambo didn’t come back to the family home on Southwest Eighth Street in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 15, Morgan got concerned.

“He normally comes right back, give him 10 minutes, he’s back. He’ll go down to the street come right back go back inside,” Morgan said about the dog that he bought as a gift for his daughter Arielle three years ago.

At one point, Morgan pulled up his surveillance cameras and found footage of Rambo running when a light blue car stops and a passenger seems to lure Rambo.

“Obviously if he’s on the street, he’s somewhere from here,” Morgan said. Morgan has checked area shelters and there are not any signs of the dog.

“That fact that they’re not doing the right steps, even if you didn’t knock on the door, put him in a shelter,” Morgan said.

“I’m not saying they stole the dog, off the bat, I don’t know want to judge. I want my dog back, you know, because it’s for my daughter.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Morgan at (954) 225-5097.

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Miami Beach commissioner to resign, enter plea in campaign finance scandal

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco is set to step down from his position on the city’s commission on Tuesday and enter a plea to a criminal charge related to a campaign finance scandal, Local 10 News has confirmed. 

Grieco will enter a plea in connection to one misdemeanor count of accepting a political donation through a straw donor, which is in violation of state campaign finance law.

He is expected go to Miami-Dade criminal court after he turns in his resignation, the Miami Herald repots.  

Grieco may be banned from running for office for one year, and will be asked to pay the costs associated with the state attorney’s public corruption investigation, the Miami Herald said. 

The commissioner was once an assistant attorney and was investigated by the same office he once worked for. 

 

 

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Family mourns death of model daughter after wrong-way crash

By all accounts, Christelle Blanche, an aspiring model, was doing everything right Friday when she was driving to a video shoot. She was even going the speed limit. 

 But out of nowhere, another car– moving in the wrong direction on Florida’s Turnpike near Southwest 216th Street — slammed into her head-on.

“In her short life, she did a lot,” Margarita Blanche, the victim’s mother said. “She was a happy girl.”

Christelle Blanche’s parents are now left with a huge void in their hearts after the sudden and tragic death of the 25-year-old. 

The driver who crashed into Christelle Blanche has been identified as 25-year old Yahaday Sarduy. 

Sarduy was also killed in the crash.

“No anger whatsoever. I mean, things happen in life,” Jose Blanche  said about his daughter’s death. “We’re going to accept that. We’re going to continue on and remember our daughter and making her proud.”

 Aside from the many fashion shows and competitions she took part in, Christelle  Blanche was most proud of her 4-year-old daughter, Amira, who is too young to comprehend the reason her mother hasn’t returned home.

“She loves her mommy,” Margarita Blanche said. “Sometimes she asks for her and if she cry we say ‘Don’t cry,’ but she doesn’t understand yet.” 

“We’re gonna remember her for who she was– the strongest person I ever met,” Jose Blanche said. “And the person I am most proud of.” 

 Christelle Blanche’s body will be transferred later this week the medical examiner’s office in Miami to a funeral home in North Carolina where her parents live and where services will be held.

A GoFundMe account has also been set up for Amira.

 

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Remote community in Puerto Rico struggling after Hurricane Maria

 Zuleyka Santos couldn’t contain her tears on Monday as she walked around where her home once stood in La Hormiga, Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria destroyed her house when it struck the island more than a month ago. 

Santos lost everything in storm. 

On Monday volunteers with Wedobetter.org flew from South Florida to the community  with supplies for the rural part of the island.

Portable phone chargers, toiletries, food and water to last maybe a few days were among the donated supplies given out.

“The government is dealing with a lot of things and I’m not saying they’re not doing their job, they’re doing their job and they’re doing what they can,” said Jean Diaz, a community organizer. 

The group WeDoBetter.org said they refused to go through the island’s governor’s office to distribute the supplies to residents. 

“The information that we were getting on the ground is that the aid that was going through the office of the governor was not getting to the people quickly,” Bobby Rodrigo said. 

Medical supplies were also brought to the island through the group Doctors4PuertoRico. 

Members of the nonprofit said many hospitals are still in crisis mode after the storm, and several doctors said that they believe the official death toll of 48 could increase. 

Currently, 80 percent of the island remains without power and some doctors are using generators to provide electricity as they treat patients at hospitals. 

The governor of Puerto Rico has said he has a plan to restore electricity to most of the island by the end of year. 

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